The Legalization of Marijuana
On August 29, 2013, during a conference call with state governors, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the US Department of Justice would allow the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington to go into effect. Mr. Holder stated that the Justice Department would take a “trust but verify approach” to the new marijuana laws, but did reserve the right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date if necessary.
Reasons the Federal Government Might Prosecute:
Also on August 29, 2013 the Department of Justice issued a Memo clarifying that it would retain the right to prosecute individuals who engage in the following circumstances:
- the distribution of marijuana to minors;
- revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
- the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
- state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other
- illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
- violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
- growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers
- posed by marijuana production on public lands;
- preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
As further stated in the memorandum, except for these stated federal enforcement priorities, the federal government has relied on the state and local law enforcement to address marijuana activity. This policy will continue.
Why the Federal Government is Leaving it to the States:
Colorado and Washington have recently enacted laws that authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana. The Department of Justice was very clear that it expects those states to establish laws that protect the above stated federal interests. The memorandum states that these factors must be protected by laws that are tough and have adequate funding to enforce. In return, the federal government will rely on the states to enforce any other violation of law as it relates to marijuana.
Based on the states assurances that they will enact appropriately strict regulatory systems, the Justice Department advised the governors of Colorado and Washington that it would defer its right to challenge the state legalization laws at this time. However, the Department has stated that if the factors listed above do materialize, than federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Justice Department may challenge the legalization itself.
The Department of Justice states that with the existence of a strong and effective state regulatory system and the compliance with, and enforcement of, such a system, it is satisfied that any issues regarding the states legalization of marijuana have been, or will be, properly dealt with. So, unless the factors listed above have come in to play, the federal government will not get involved in the prosecution of marijuana offenses.
This is, obviously, a great step toward reducing any federal involvement in the state rules, laws and regulations regarding medicinal and/or recreational marijuana.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys
The federal government’s relaxing its stance on marijuana is a huge stop forward in the possible legalization, or at least decriminalizing, marijuana.
These issues apply in Michigan as it related to medical marijuana only. The recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under any circumstances. If you or someone you know is faced with a criminal charge involving marijuana – possession of marijuana, use of marijuana, intent to deliver, or operating under the influence of marijuana or any thing of that nature – it is important that you have competent legal representation. The attorneys at Lewis & Dickstein, P.L.L.C. have the knowledge and experience to help deal with any such situation. If you need assistance or a question answered please complete the “Request for Assistance Form” or call us at (248) 623-6800 and one of our highly competent attorneys will be happy to speak to you.